Meet the Executive Lead

Suzanne Herbert brings a wealth of experience to the position of Executive Lead, University Funding Model Reform. In 2013–14, she led the negotiations of Strategic Mandate Agreements with Ontario's 24 community colleges on behalf of the government.

Sue has had a long career in public service and was a Deputy Minister in the Ontario Government from 1997–2008, retiring after serving as Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, the Ministry of Education, where she represented Canada for several years at the OECD Education Directorate, and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Prior to becoming a Deputy Minister she was the CEO of the Ontario Housing Corporation and held various Assistant Deputy Minister positions.

In addition to this extensive experience with government, she has accepted several project assignments such as assisting a children's mental health agency looking at its strategic direction and serving in Inuvik with the World Wildlife Federation looking at marine spatial planning in the Beaufort Sea.

Sue and her husband Ken also volunteer with a number of non profit organizations.

Message from Suzanne Herbert

Blog 5: 10 December 2015

As promised, we have released our report on the consultation, which summarizes what we heard, discusses what we learned, and provides a few strategic directions for reforming the university funding model. We have entitled this report Focus on Outcomes, Centre on Students to indicate that changes to the funding model should be focused on improving outcomes, with an emphasis on student success as a first step. The current enrolment-driven formula has served the system well throughout an era of growth, and an outcomes lens will build on this success. Building an outcomes lens will require clear objectives, and relevant, comparable, and publicly available data.

It was a privilege to lead this consultation on the future directions for the province’s university funding formula. In the space of a few very busy months, we heard from a wide range of stakeholders who are as passionate about the issues of postsecondary education as they are insightful about the factors shaping the sector’s future.

The quality of the contributions we received – their depth and thoughtfulness – made it both easy and challenging to compile this final report. Easy, in that the reasoning behind each position was clear and well substantiated, but challenging in that the various positions had to be synthesized into a compact format.

One clear finding emerged from the consultation despite the range of positions put forward: that student success is a shared goal for all stakeholders. Our recommendations capitalize on and harness this commitment, aiming to promote a culture of continuous improvement with respect to student outcomes. A reformed funding formula should support students and foster universities’ economic and social contributions.

I thank everyone who took the time to participate and share their views. I look forward to seeing what will take shape as the province weighs the advice in this report. I would also like to extend my personal thanks to a small team of advisors who assisted me in this process. Under the leadership of Bill Praamsma, and with the support of Chris Martin, Lindsay DeClou, Liliya Bogutska and Api Panchalingam, we have been able to accomplish a great deal in a short period of time. I also want to thank the ministry staff who supported our consultation event and production of the report. It’s been a pleasure to work again with public servants whose commitment and quality are exceptional.

Sue Herbert

Executive Lead
Consultation on University Funding Reform

Blog 4: 24 September 2015

After five months of broad-based engagement, our consultation on the University Funding Model ended on September 1st. Moving forward, we have started formulating a public report that will include what we’ve heard, what we have taken from the consultation, and our thoughts about designing a new funding model.

In the past months, we have met with university and high school students, employer representatives, university leadership, and college representatives.

As you might expect, our consultation revealed many differences of opinion on how funding should be allocated to the university sector. In particular, differences centred on the viability and advisability of outcomes-based funding, funding redistribution, and what appropriate incentives for the system would be.

However, there are some consistent points of high-level alignment that can be shared at this preliminary stage:

  • The need for information, data and metrics that are transparent, accessible and validated in order to better understand what we are funding and what it is achieving. I shared this in my last update.
  • A desire for an outcomes-based lens that is focused on student success and experience, particularly at the undergraduate level. In particular, measuring learning outcomes was a key discussion point.
  • The importance of developing and providing more experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students.
  • Support for increased differentiation as long as it is respectful of individual institutional strengths and missions; and the use of an SMA as a vehicle for those discussions.
  • Strong support for a model that is predictable, flexible and understandable.

Our goal is to provide a report for public release in late fall. This report will outline the results of the consultation and our advice to the system about moving forward on a new funding model.
I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who participated in, or supported, this consultation process. In my view, the dialogue was productive and insightful. I am confident that moving forward, we can ensure that students continue to have access to a high-quality postsecondary education system, delivered by Ontario’s universities.

Blog 3: 24 July 2015

It's been a busy month for the consultation on university funding model reform. Some highlights include briefings from the Ministries of Finance and Health on their finance models, as well as a meeting of our reference group on student outcomes.

We are now at a point in the consultations where themes have begun to emerge. These themes are unifying ideas, images or motifs that have been repeated throughout the course of our dialogue. Some have been contentious and others have been points of consensus, but all are the subject of constant discussion from multiple stakeholder perspectives.

One example is the theme of data. There is a perception that there is a lack of consistent, verifiable, easily accessible data on universities and their students, cost structures, teaching and learning methodologies. Sometimes it is a concern around input data, sometimes about metrics, sometimes what I would call descriptive data. Sometimes it is confusion about what the government holds and what others in the system maintain.

The reality is that there is a lot of publicly available information about universities through several venues but it is not always widely understood, trusted or interpretable. In a blog from last year, HEQCO's Martin Hicks has pointed out that “we have a lot of data, but they are effectively in quarantine.”

A minimum expectation for the receipt of public funds is the availability of data that is pertinent to the public consumers of a system, useful for the research and development of a system, and illustrative as to whether public funds are being used effectively and efficiently, however that is defined.

As I mentioned before, we were recently briefed by the Ministry of Health on the health system funding reform. I've posted the deck for your information. The health system has developed robust data over many years of joint work between stakeholders and this spirit of collaboration and investigation has yielded concrete dividends with regard to transparency and accountability.

Just a reminder that this phase of the consultation finishes at the end of August. Thanks to all who have engaged with us thus far, and I look forward to your continued comment and input.

Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund
Consultations on University Funding Reform

Sue Herbert

Executive Lead
Consultation on University Funding Reform

Blog 2: 4 June 2015

We have been very busy since the launch of this website and the release of the consultation paper. On May 6, the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities held a one day symposium led off by Minister Reza Moridi, who spoke about creating a better, stronger university system for everyone — and about creating a new funding model that is rational, easy to understand and that supports the goals of improved student outcomes and long-term sustainability.

The Deputy Minister (Interim) Marie-Lison Fougère followed, outlining her hopes for the day and acknowledging the work that we are tasked with needs to follow a principled approach to strike a balance between policy goals and student experience, support for differentiation, financial sustainability and increased transparency and accountability. She also noted that the funding formula is a means to an end not an end itself.

A broad cross section of stakeholders were represented at the day and broke into cross-sector table groups to discuss the questions outlined in the consultation paper, while each table's recorder took notes, which we are now compiling. In all about 175 people attended a packed room.

Participants at the May 6 all-day funding model review symposium

Since then we have approached and confirmed number of individuals who are prepared to work with the project as “reference” group members, people who have differing areas of expertise, experience and views. This is an informal group we will consult as individuals, and in a group, seeking their advice and asking them to challenge our thinking.

We have spent time talking to a number of groups, including Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, several Council of Ontario Universities committees and others. We have more meetings coming up, including joint briefings on various topics.

Our goal is to complete this first phase of broad consultation and begin to shape design elements for a further round of targeted consultations. We hope to present a public report about what we heard and learned by mid-fall 2015.

A discussion about how funds should be allocated is never easy. Yet people, organizations and institutions have come together to hold fulsome dialogues and for that I am very grateful. We will be back to you with some early themes from this first phase in our next update.

Reference Materials

Blog 1: 28 April 2015

Welcome to the University Funding Model Reform Website.

The government has asked me to undertake, for the next few months, a broad discussion with interested stakeholders on how best to design a revised funding approach for Ontario's university system. We are a small team working together for the next six months.

The government wants to see its funding of universities enhance:

  • The quality and overall student experience
  • The strengths of each institution, as expressed in their Strategic Mandate Agreement
  • The financial sustainability and long-term sustainability of the postsecondary sector
  • Transparency and accountability.

On this website we have posted a discussion document to help guide the consultation and a form you can complete to submit your views directly. This consultation will make use of several different approaches – meetings with stakeholder groups such as student organizations, faculty associations, the Council of Ontario Universities and others; cross sector dialogues, briefings, written submissions and advice. Feedback from this consultation will be available publicly when we have completed our first round of discussions.

Our plan is to provide positive and helpful input into an important element of the government's postsecondary transformation agenda. I hope you will take the time to read the paper and respond with your views and ideas.

We'll keep you posted on our progress regularly. Many thanks for your interest and time.